Kudos to INDUSTRYconf for these great moments

Kyle Fiedler and Kelly Gebo

We had the pleasure of attending INDUSTRYconf this September and were impressed by how effective a virtual conference could be. It’s important to thoughtbot that we have a strong pulse on the challenges teams are facing, the goals companies are striving for and the type of resources groups are finding useful.

Engaging in the product community helps us best share our learnings and maintain a process for supporting clients, both early stage companies and companies looking to level-up.

Being able to effectively identify the right product for your business and your customers and then execute on the mission are critical for success. To do this the entire team needs to be clear on the overall strategy which in turn, allows you to maximize productivity but improve team fulfillment. These are a few things that stood out to us reflecting on our time spent at INDUTSRYconf.

Reduce Risk & Pass Competitors with User Evidence

We really enjoyed hearing Holly Hester-Reilly elaborate on making evidence based product decisions. She gave some great examples for what types of tests can be useful and insight into the product science principles to serve as your foundation. For example, measuring both quantitative and qualitative data to define a target market, or using A/B tests to dig into a specific feature. It’s important to note that you don’t tap into your testing toolbox for only big picture decisions. There is a huge benefit in testing all risks and assumptions, from stories to strategy.

Experiments are most productive if we make sure to approach them in an unbiased way and if we have a clear alignment on the definition of success at both the business and product level.

We agree with Holly that testing with real users through the development lifecycle helps ensure a strong path forward. We frequently use User Interviews as our go to testing mechanism for conducting research. Here are some tips for leading better interviews if you are preparing for some tests of your own.

Networking can be fun. Wait… WHAT?

Going into the conference I thought this was going to be a bit forced and awkward. Was I wrong. The networking part of the conference was a blast.

As soon as you’re ready you’re randomly paired with another attendee, maybe a founder, maybe a Project Manager, maybe a student. Each session is constrained to 10 minutes, which in many cases left the conversation on a high point and avoided most awkward silences and breaks in conversation.

But what most certainly made this great was all of the attendees that I hopped on a call with were engaging and interesting to talk to. I would have done this all day if I could.

Build a team of missionaries — not mercenaries.

What really stood out to me from Esteban Contreras’s presentation, was how defining a product mission is more meaningful than a product vision. A mission serving as a much fuller picture and includes context around what we are doing, how, for who and why. Whereas a product vision can be limited to a more tactical execution.

As early as our first sales conversation, we discuss product goals with our clients but also dig into the larger picture. By having a stronger understanding of the customers, competitors, differentiators, etc we are better equipped to make decisions along the way.

Esteban also touched on the power of being very intentional about the ideas we support, encourage, and share. This aligns beautifully with our purpose and values as an organization. We believe there is always a better way to do our work, and we want to find it and share it with as many people as possible.

Delight. Hard to Copy. Margin-enhancing.

Gibson Biddle, Former VP of Product at Netflix, walked us through some of the criteria for how their team choose to work or not work on product features. When considering new features the team as Netflix asked:

  • Does this bring delight to the user? Will this help establish a
  • Is this hard to copy from competitors? Is this something that is unique to Netflix or a challenge for competitors to copy?
  • Is this margin-enhancing? Does this increase the bottom line, will it bring in revenue?

They used this formula to kill ideas like group video watching or move forward with an auto-cancel feature for people who haven’t been using the product after a while.

What Comes After MVP is Even More Important

We have worked with a lot of founders and early stage companies, seeking support in defining and executing on the right MVP. It’s just as important to think through your ‘What happens after MVP’ strategy.

Ash Maurya spoke truthfully about the challenges following MVP, and the importance of keeping evidence-based strategy as an ongoing part of your product iterations. Of course following launch, it’s great to collect lots and lots of user feedback, but don’t let those turn into feature requests. Instead treat them as a sound bite into a problem that you need to find a solution to.

You don’t have a great idea you have a great hypothesis

Claire Vo, Chief Product Officer at Optimizely, elegantly expressed what I believe was one of the themes of the conference. Her conversation with Michael Belsiko, circled around how experimentation is important for any product at any stage. Following a scientific method with a bold hypothesis is how you get out of small incremental change to build great products.

The process that Claire talked about reminded me a lot of the Design Thinking process; Identifying a problem, coming up with a variety of solutions, and then choosing one to test.

We had a wonderful time getting to know more awesome product people and felt the presentations highlighted some great tips for teams across various product stages. If what you read is helpful, and you are curious how we might help with the things that are top of mind for you, please reach out. We love sharing what we’ve learned and are here to help!